Jonathan Rauch shares an anecdote in an article that appears inthe July/August 2014 issue of The Atlantic. He writes of a Christian acquaintance of his who commented on the sweeping cultural changes that are taking place with regard to gay marriage. “I say half jokingly to my wife,” the Christian says, “ ‘Where do we move?’ “
That’s the way many Christian feel. We see wrong being called right, and right being called wrong, and we start to ask — “Where do we move? How can I get out of here? Where can I flee to find a safer place that is more suited to my own way of thinking?”
Rauch describes himself in the article as a “homosexual atheist.” Hearing that, one might expect that Rauch would use his space in the Atlantic to attack Christians for being narrow-minded, bigoted and judgmental. But that’s not what he does. Instead, he affirms that religion plays a “unique role in American life,” and that “the faithful have every right to seek reasonable accommodations for religious conscience.” He expresses a concern that if religion chooses to isolate itself from secular society, that both religion and secular society will lose something. Religion will lose more, he says, but secular society will lose too. In other words, his exhortation to Christians is this: “Don’t move away!”
There have always been Christians who, in response to sweeping cultural changes, have been eager to find refuge in some form of an isolated evangelical sub-culture, but Rauch recommends something different to us Christians: “A missionary tradition of engagement and education, of resolutely and even cheerfully going out into an often uncomprehending world” in order to “engage and interact.”
Isn’t that refreshing? As much as I probably disagree with this man on a whole host of subjects, he is spot on here. Yes, the culture is changing faster than we can comprehend. Yes, there is reason to be concerned about how these changes are going to alter the very foundations of our civilization. And yes, Christians will be increasingly marginalized and perhaps even persecuted in years to come. But is that any reason to move away? No.
There is not a shred of Biblical evidence that Christians are called to flee their cultures, not matter how bad it gets. Remember, the Jews were exiled to Babylon, a city that was a symbol of wickedness and rebellion against God, and yet God called them to settle down there, to seek the welfare of that place, and to pray for it (Jer. 29:6-7). Jesus says in John 17:8 that he has sent us “into the world” — not into a place of unmitigated safety and comfort, but into a fallen, depraved and sometimes dangerous world. Paul calls us to be lights of the world “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Phil. 2:15). How can you shine your light into a place if you’re running away from it?
In fact, the only reason to flee from a particular community would be if it were totally Christianized and fully sanctified — then Christians wouldn’t be needed there! But the more a culture deteriorates, the more upside down it gets, the closer you get to thinking there is no hope, the more Christians are needed to hunker down to love and serve, to gently and patiently reorient people toward truth, and to fearlessly proclaim the Gospel. Thank you Jonathan Rauch for sounding an alarm that all Christians need to hear.